A Florida police officer has resigned from the force and is facing charges after a video showed him slapping and punching a drunk man at the hospital. The police officer, 31-year-old Albert Eckrode, has been arrested on felony battery charges and official misconduct. He is also being charged with a misdemeanor count of filing a false report. A fellow officer also turned herself in to the police on the false report charge.
The Fort Pierce police chief went on record saying that the conduct committed by the officers was criminal conduct.
The video shows a 38-year-old man sitting in a recliner in the mental health wing of a local hospital. The man is wearing only shorts and socks. In the video, the man appears to be gesturing and yelling at a different officer when Eckrode entered the situation.
Eckrode can be seen yelling at the man and then using his foot to bring down the recliner’s footrest. Eckrode then slapped and punched the man several times.
Later, the police said that the man had yelled racial slurs at the other officer who was black. Both Eckrode and the man were white.
Eckrode falsified the police report concerning the incident and his partner signed off on what Eckrode wrote. This, by itself, is official misconduct under the law. The crime of official misconduct is defined in Florida Statutes 838.022. It prohibits lying on any official document, preventing information from entering the record, changing information, or destroying evidence.
There is a second element that must be satisfied. The intent of the report must be “corrupt”. In other words, the officers or their allies must gain some direct benefit from the official misconduct. If this element is not satisfied, then the prosecution is left with the misdemeanor crime of filing a false report.
Official misconduct, on the other hand, is considered a third-degree felony which is punishable by up to five years in prison, five years probation, and/or a $5,000 fine. Simple battery is a misdemeanor, but depending on the extent of the man’s injuries, it could be charged as a felony.
Eckrode is accused of two first-degree misdemeanors and one third-degree felony. He could face as many as seven years behind bars, but likely won’t serve more than a year in prison. The biggest problem for Eckrode now is the loss of his job and the criminal charges hanging over his head. If he pleads guilty or is found guilty of any of these charges, they will show up on his record when attempting to secure new employment.
This is another example of the police behaving like criminals and using their badge to try to get away with it. While stories like this do make headlines, it is rare that police are held accountable for misconduct.
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